Harris & Lewis
Harris and Lewis is actually one large landmass, but the landscapes in each northern and southern region are so distinct that it’s regarded as being two separate islands. This unique island is the largest in Scotland and has some of the most beautiful scenery, comprising a mix of mountainous peaks, beautiful white sand beaches, and wide, sweeping plains of moorland.
Of the two ‘islands’, Harris (in my opinion) is the prettiest, mainly due to its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters that are reminiscent of a far-flung tropical paradise. While its northern side is mountainous (the highest peak, Clisham, is 2,621 feet high), it has a much flatter southern region, with a wild and rugged eastern coastline and those fabulous beaches on the western side.
Lewis, on the other hand, is much flatter with expansive peat bogs, hundreds of freshwater lochans, and sheer-sided cliffs, especially around the northernmost areas like the Butt of Lewis. The main town is Stornoway (the largest town in the entire Hebrides) which offers a blend of traditional Gaelic culture and modern amenities.
Highlights of a visit to Stornoway include seeing the fascinating Museum nan Eilean at Lews Castle and exploring the bustling harbour, as well as wandering through the high street and eating delicious fresh-caught seafood at one of the town’s many restaurants.
The Isle of Harris, meanwhile, is far less populated than Lewis and therefore has smaller settlements, the main ones being Tarbert and Leverburgh. Tarbert, the main village, is known for the Harris Tweed Shop and the Harris Distillery, while Leverburgh is the location of the ferry terminal that provides access to North Uist and the rest of the archipelago.
Wildlife thrives in the diverse habitats of Harris and Lewis. Red deer can be seen on the moorlands (there are around 4,000 of them roaming across the islands), while seals and otters can often be spotted along the coastline. The islands are also a birdwatcher’s paradise and are home to a wide range of species including golden eagles, sea eagles, puffins, and corncrakes.
Recommended birdwatching locations are the large areas of machair near the coasts of both islands, which are unique habitats found only in the northwest of Scotland and Ireland. This beautiful but fragile environment blooms with wildflowers in the summer which in turn attracts a multitude of birds and insects.
Tourist attractions on Harris and Lewis are plentiful, but the highlights are the Callanish Standing Stones on Lewis (stone circles dating back to around 2900 BC), and the beaches of Luskentyre and Scarista on Harris which offer enormous stretches of sand set against a mountainous backdrop. For those interested in Scottish heritage, the traditional blackhouses at Gearrannan and Arnol provide a glimpse into the island’s past, as does the museum at Lews Castle in Stornoway.
Find places to visit and things to do on Harris & Lewis with these visitor guides.
The Arnol Blackhouse on the Isle of Lewis is a fine example of one of the traditional thatched stone-walled houses that served as home to both people and animals on Scotland’s west coast islands for hundreds of years. The restored building at Arnol – number 42 – sits in an idyllic setting on Lewis, surrounded…
The Butt of Lewis is an area on the far-northern tip of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. In addition to being one of the windiest places in Britain, the ‘butt’ is home to a lighthouse built in 1862 that’s unusual because it’s unpainted rather than having the standard red and white colour…
The Callanish Standing Stones are located on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. These huge granite stones (the largest is 16 feet tall) were erected 5,000 years ago in the late Neolithic era, possibly for ritual use. The site comprises a cross shape of monoliths around a central circle of 13…
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village lies on the southwest edge of the Isle of Lewis, set within a deep cove that offers protection against the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The village comprises a number of restored blackhouses – traditional thatched stone-walled dwellings that served as home to both animals and people for hundreds of years.
Hushinish is a remote region of the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It is accessed via a twisting 12-mile single-track road on the southwest of the island which presents stunning views of South Harris and the island of Taransay. Once at Hushinish, visitors can enjoy a white sand beach surrounded by…
The Isle of Harris is situated in the Outer Hebrides where it borders the Isle of Lewis on its northern side and faces the isle of North Uist to the south. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland’s Western Isles, primarily because it’s home to some of the best beaches in…
The Isle of Lewis is the northern half of Lewis and Harris which is the northernmost island in the Outer Hebrides. Lewis covers an area of 683 square miles and has a landscape that’s much flatter than Harris, mostly comprising moorland surrounded by a rocky and sparsely populated coastline. Visitors to Lewis will find some…
The Isle of Scalpay is located on the southeast corner of Harris and Lewis. At just 2.5 square miles in total, Scalpay is one of the smallest isles of the Outer Hebrides yet it has a thriving community of crofters, fishermen and artisanal crafters. Highlights of a visit to Scalpay include the stunning 14 miles…
Lews Castle is a Victorian-era castle situated in the heart of historic Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. The castle is a popular tourist destination thanks to the extensive landscaped gardens as well as the on-site cafe and gift shop. The main point of interest though, is the museum which explores the history of Lewis,…
The Pairc peninsula – also known as the Parish of Lochs – is situated on the southeast corner of the Isle of Lewis between Loch Eireasort and Loch Shiphoirt. This vast and almost entirely uninhabited area covers over 68,000 acres of rolling hills and rugged coastline, pockmarked by countless freshwater lochs. Visitors to Pairc will…
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